Elizabeth (Liz) Coutts (Wilson
1972 to 1975
While I spend a large proportion of time in boardrooms, I am equally at home in gumboots on a farm. I grew up on a dairy farm in Matamata which taught me to pull my weight and work hard, alongside five siblings. I am the second youngest in my family. I wasn’t aware how much I lacked confidence until I was a Rotary Exchange Student and went to school near Toronto in Canada for a year when I was 16 years old. With my new exchange-families and having become the person with the accent at school, I was suddenly someone whose opinion people were interested in hearing. I found my voice, quietly spoken as I was, and relished the opportunities provided. I still enjoy relationships with my host families in Canada today.
I returned home and gained my Bachelor of Management Studies degree in Business Finance and Marketing at the University of Waikato.
Through an introduction to the forestry sector during employment over the university holidays at the Forest Research Institute and then my first permanent job as a graduate accountant at Tasman Pulp and Paper in Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty, this ultimately led to appointment as Chief Executive of the Caxton Group in Auckland at the age of 31. Caxton had been one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned companies and was a vertically integrated forestry, pulp, tissue paper and consumer marketing business which had operations in New Zealand and the Pacific, and markets in New Zealand, Australia, Asia and the US. The role involved leading Caxton in the deregulated economy and was a great success as sales and profitability were maintained well above analyst expectations.
Having worked in nearly all aspects of the forestry sector, and having experienced my first listed public company directorship of Trust Bank New Zealand at 34, it was the desire for diversity that attracted me to becoming a professional director. The opportunity to be involved in different industries and work with different people is still incredibly stimulating to me.
I take responsibility of stewardship and governance seriously. My experience has meant I have been involved with navigating a vast array of circumstances that an organization may face. I understand the importance of managing risks, relationships and finances, and the need for good people, systems and processes.
My governance career has connected me with a wide range and cadre of leaders and influencers from all walks of life, in business, sport, politics, the community and academic fields. Their expertise, ideas and points of view make me think, consider, debate and ensure better decisions and direction for the organisations I am involved with.
I was appointed to my first directorship with Trust Bank New Zealand whilst at Caxton. From there, I expanded my governance career in the early years with a number of government roles including Commissioner with the Commerce Commission and Earthquake Commission, Chairman of Industrial Research and Deputy Chairman of Public Trust. With now over 20 years in governance roles, I have a portfolio of positions in a wide range of industries and sectors. My portfolio evolves as organizations change and opportunities arise.
I am a Chartered Fellow of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and a Chartered Fellow and Vice President of the Institute of Directors.
Outside of work I keep fit through regular jogging, yoga and swimming. Tennis is my favourite sport. My husband and I have undertaken property developments in Marlborough and Auckland and enjoy the hands on involvement with landscape design and building projects.